Allergies are on the rise around the world, and many allergens begin life inside our homes. Most of the time, the problems are too small to notice –microscopic dust - eg allergic rhinitis, hay fever, bronchial asthma, and atopic dermatitis, hidden in your home is the largest allergens that can cause allergic reactions.
An allergy is a disorder of the immune system that causes hypersensitivity to certain substances- allergens. On contact with an allergen, the immune system thinks it’s under attack. It produces the antibody immunoglobulin E that bonds with white blood cells, making them release powerful chemicals such as histamine. These chemicals cause inflammation of affected areas- leading to coughing, itching, sneezing, runny nose and other common symptoms.
Dust is a mixture of many potentially allergenic materials – primarily dead skin cells, dust mites, dust mite faeces, pollen, fungus, fibres, bacteria, food particles, plant matter, insects and chemicals. For example, on average a single gram of house dust contains somewhere in the region of a million bacteria. Even salmonella has been found in carpets, surviving for up to fifty days in studies.
The number one cause of allergies in the home, dust mites are from the family of arthropods that include ticks, trombiculid mites (chiggers) and spiders. They feed on flakes of dead skin (humans shed around 40,000 skin cells a minute – 28 grams every week). So dust mites are found wherever these cells accumulate: in tatami, mats, carpets, crevices, futons, beds, pillows, sofas, cushions, clothing and soft toys. There are up to 1000 dust mites in every square metre of carpet or rug.It’s not the dust mites that cause an allergic response, it’s their faeces. Dust mite faeces contain highly allergenic proteins that trigger asthma or other allergic conditions. The allergenic protein is an enzyme used to break down the skin and fungal food the organisms eat. It gets excreted with any waste material left over from this process. Worse still, dust mite faeces are so small and light that they can become airborne when disturbed by our daily activities, making them easy to inhale.Malaysia’s climate and houses provide the perfect conditions for dust mites to thrive. And even in cooler months when the number of mites is reduced, their faeces continue to be a problem.
Vacuum wood floors, mats and carpets regularly and thoroughly to reduce the amount of skin cells and other organic matter (dust mite food supply).Vacuum mattresses, beds and sofas regularly to suck up skin cells and dust mite faeces.Pulling covers back to air out the mattress can help cool the temperature of the bed, preventing dust mites from breeding so quickly.
Some pollen can travel hundreds of miles. This is why warm, dry and windy weather often increases allergy symptoms.
Most pollen, and other respiratory allergens inside the home are found on the floor and under furniture. Regular, thorough cleaning will substantially reduce allergens throughout the homes.
Moulds are a type of fungi and many types of mould are found inside the home. Mould spores are perennial so allergic people exhibit symptoms throughout the year – though these are typically heightened in the autumn, during wet mild weather and harvesting.Moulds produces and releases millions of spores, small enough to be airborne. Mould allergens cause the same symptoms that occur in other upper respiratory allergies, including sneezing, runny noses and itchy, watery eyes.
Removing house dust by vacuuming will remove spores that are present in the dust, therefore reducing the risk of mould forming in the house.Tackle any damp areas or walls, ensuring they’re dry and free from mould.
Read more at Malaysia Society of Allergy and Immunology.
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